England have won their group, and now the lack of expectation is ironically breeding more and more expectation as the media frenzy gathers momentum;
Terry Venables has stated: 'England are serious contenders' Gareth Southgate has said: 'Now England are one of the favourites.' And as i listened to a radio show yesterday one caller said: 'The problem with England is if we win Euro 12 we will want to keep playing this boring style.' As a Wolverhampton Wanderers fan i am an admirer of blind faith but this is getting out of hand. Ad hoc i felt compelled to deliver a dose of reality and remind people that before the tournament no one had expected much from Hodgson's men, and in truth England have shown little that should've change that. Here's some humbling stats and facts:
England have attempted a meek 840 passes, that's the worse record of the 16 teams competing in the tournament. It's less than half the amount of Spain, Germany, France, Holland and Russia. It is even considerably less than tournament underdogs Republic Of Ireland (1128)
England have completed just 557 passes which is also the worse record in the tournament. And means their pass completion rate is just 66% only four teams have worse.
From the 270 minutes of football England have played in, they have kept the ball for just 56 minutes, that's an average possession of just 23% and is the 15th worse record in the tournament.
England are ranked 13th with shots on target with just 15. That's less than half the amount Italy, Spain and France have managed. England are also ranked 13th with shots off target which indicates a they are severely lacking in the creativity department. In fact, it wasn't until the 15 minute of their second tie against Sweden that an England striker had an attempt on goal.
England are playing so deep they are one of only two teams to fail to catch the opposition offside. The other being Greece. They are ranked 14th with successful crosses, connecting just 3. And in their own half England have let the opposing team have possession an average of 71% of the time.
Now consider these statistics with the added fact Italy are at the other end of the scale in regards to each of these stats plus the fact they are unbeaten in competitive matches under their current manager, Cesare Prandelli (thirteen games returning nine wins and four draws) it doesn't look as promising as the papers would have you believe.
I'm as desperate as the next England fan to end the 56 year international drought, and I'd love to solve the mystery of why we have some of the worlds best players, but none of the best results. I don't like to be a cynic but blindly praising them for substandard performances just gives false hope. Let's just be realistic for a moment, England may well be unbeaten and it's true they have won their group but let's face facts, asides from a 30 minute spell against the French, England have performed woefully below par. There is probably two players from the Ukraine and Sweden squad combined that would be considered for the England side (on paper at least) and yet, they rode their luck to beat Sweden and were clearly outplayed by Ukraine who were unfortunate not to win let alone lose. Ukraine don't have a single player that features in the Champions League, England hardly has a player that doesn't. So my question is where has all this belief come from? It certainly isn't performance inspired.
However, as i have shared my thoughts with others i have been hastily reminded of the Danish side that were written off in1992 and the feat that the Greeks managed in 2004, not to mention Chelsea's Champions League victory in May. And whilst i will urge for some perspective, i suppose stranger things have happened...